Back to School/Back to Campus: How to Make This Year YOUR Year!

Success in school provides a mental and emotional lift. Now is the perfect time to examine past educational experience, and make plans to improve performance.

As the last days of summer near and schools and colleges across the country approach the beginning of another academic year, it's the perfect time for students to look back on the educational experiences (and outcomes) of the last year or more while making plans to improve performance levels. Doing these things now can help make this coming academic your year to succeed!

Steps to Make This Year Your Year

1. Set (Realistic, but Aspirational) Goals. Regardless of your past academic achievements, your first step should be setting goals for what you wish to achieve this school year. Don't settle for what you've done in the past; instead, set goals that push you to work hard, and achieve more. Goals can cover outcomes (grades), process (study habits), and just about any other issue of concern -- such as choosing a college, major, or grad program; working better in teams; better relationships with teachers/professors; finding an internship or job.

Some sample goals:

  • Improve grades to earn a spot on the dean's list.

  • Obtain a job prior to graduation.

  • Set aside a daily two-hour block for studying/schoolwork.

2. Align Attitude With Goals. Setting goals for yourself is nice, but if you also don't adjust your thinking -- your attitude -- you'll never actually achieve your goals. For example, if you're getting pressure from your family to improve your grades, but grades don't really matter much to you, then setting a goal to improve them without an attitude change will result in an unattained goal -- and much greater frustration. If you're having a hard time adjusting your attitude, try conducting research or talking with an unbiased friend or mentor to discover the error of your ways.

3. Set/Change/Modify Behaviors. The next step in this process is changing or modifying your behaviors. Again, simply setting a goal -- and even having the right attitude -- is not enough to achieve your goal. You also must be willing to make some changes in your behavior. For students, the two biggest behavior changes are committing more time (or simply managing time better) and enhancing your work efforts. For example, simply devoting more hours to school work will achieve the goal for some students. For others, it may not be about time at all -- but making the best use of their time.

4. Review Interim Results. Check your progress toward your goals at several intervals along the way. For example, if your goal is better grades, then every quiz, test, paper, or other graded assignment provides information for you on whether you are achieving your goal. Or, if your goal is a job before graduation, you can keep a log of your progress -- steps you're taking, such as informational interviews and other networking you've completed, job fairs attended, and interviews you've had.

5. Make Adjustments as Necessary. As you review the results from the previous step, evaluate your performance in terms of your path toward your goal. If your results indicate you may not reach your goal, step back and examine your attitude and behaviors. If you realize you have not been fully committed to the goal, make the necessary changes and wait for the next results period to determine your success. If, however, you are fully committed but the results are not showing it, you can either decide to push yourself even more -- or go back and determine if your goal is truly realistic or too much of a stretch. Again, make adjustments as you feel necessary.

Final Thoughts on Success in School

Success in school -- wherever you are in your educational journey and however you define success -- provides such a mental and emotional lift, as well as the increased likelihood of greater success in life. You may not be a big believer in goal-setting or monitoring your performance, but typically everyone does these things to some extent -- and the steps outlined in this article simply formalize the process, which in the end should help you better achieve the goals you seek... and helping make this year YOUR year!

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key academic terms by going to our College Success Glossary

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Dr. Randall Hansen is an advocate, educator, mentor, ethicist, and thought-leader... helping the world heal from past trauma. He is founder and CEO of, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including

He has been a college professor for about three decades.

He is the author of the groundbreaking Triumph Over Trauma: Psychedelic Medicines are Helping People Heal Their Trauma, Change Their Lives, and Grow Their Spirituality and the well-received HEAL! Wholeistic Practices to Help Clear Your Trauma, Heal Yourself, and Live Your Best Life.

Dr. Hansen's focus and advocacy center around true healing ... healing that results in being able to live an authentic life filled with peace, joy, love. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, You can also check out Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.

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